When the season starts, Jon Niese will be the only member of the rotation who was also a full-time starter during the Omar Minaya era. He also figures to be the only lefty in the rotation, making him that much more valuable. How valuable you ask? Well, Niese will be entering the third year of his 5 year/$25.27 million dollar contract.
That's a deal that Niese earned based upon both performance and potential. The issue remains its a potential he hasn't yet reached. Still he has remained in proposed trade discussions over the years, but those talks could heat up this season if he fails to find the path to the next level. Each of the next two seasons, Niese's salary will increase by $2 million, from $5 million this season to $7 million next, and then $9 million in the final year of his deal.
That's a good bit of money for a pitcher who has struggled to stay healthy over the years. In fact, the only season that hasn't seen him land on the disabled list is 2012:
2010: 19 Days (Hamstring)
2011: 35 Days (Intercostal Strain)
2012: 0 Days
2013: 51 Days (Torn Rotator Cuff)
There have also been instances when Niese has skipped starts due to fatigue. Now while its obvious that these minor injuries are nothing compared to more significant injuries that have hampered other members of the rotation, they still eat away at his innings and probably play a part in his effectiveness. The 2012 season was not only the healthiest of his career, but also his best statistically. Its the only year he's posted an above .500 record (an admittedly poor performance evaluator), while also posting a career low ERA and his best ever (by a hair) strike out to walk ratio.
Niese is going to make his money. However his time with the Mets could hang in the balance if he struggles again this season. Consistency and health will weigh heavy on his shoulders. At just twenty-seven years old, Jon remains a very tradable asset, and one which the team could use to bolster is offense in the coming years. 2014 is a big year for Niese, as he not only looks to solify his own resume, but will also hope to fill some of the void left by the injured Matt Harvey. The Mets need innings, and quality ones at that. Whether or not Niese can handle that responsibility is the question.